Islamic State affiliate suspected of Catholic church massacre, Nigeria says

An insurgent group affiliated to Islamic State is suspected of carrying out a massacre in a Catholic church in Nigeria on Sunday in which 40 people were killed, the country’s interior ministry has said.

Assailants wielding AK-47 rifles and explosives attacked the congregation at St Francis Catholic church in Owo, south-western Ondo state, during Pentecost mass on Sunday.

“We have been able to see the footprint of Iswap [Islamic State West Africa province] in the horrendous attack in Owo and we are after them. Our security agencies are on their trail and we will bring them to justice,” Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola told reporters in the capital, Abuja.

The authorities had not previously voiced any suspicions about the identity or motive of the killers.

Iswap, predominantly active in north-eastern Nigeria and neighbouring Chad, is one of two major Islamist insurgencies that have been fighting each other and the Nigerian military for years. Hundreds of thousands have died and millions have been displaced.

Ondo state is far from Iswap’s usual area of operations and there has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

The state governor, Arakunrin Akeredolu, gave new casualty figures on Thursday. He said a total of 127 people had been affected by the attack in the church, of whom 40 had died, 61 were still in hospital and 26 had been discharged.

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